Can Somebody Please Teach President Trump Civility?

Even well-behaved children and puppies know how to shake hands. Trump doesn't.

Posted Mar 19, 2017

Can somebody please teach the president civility? Even puppies and small children know how to shake hands when they’re asked politely. Mr. Trump wouldn’t shake hands with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor after their meeting at the White House.

Couldn’t somebody have promised him a treat? But what would count as a treat for such a man? Another building? Another wife? Four houses to turn into a hotel? More airlines, casinos, steaks, and clothing lines? Perhaps some Ovaltine?

Having spent his first 70 years free from the small indignities of everyday life—through the privilege of his family’s wealth—he has no practice in the courtesies and rituals that define independent adult behavior. Maybe that’s why, as many people have pointed out, Trump seems to genuinely not know how to shake hands. He either seizes the outstretched hand of a man and tries to pull him in or he lets his hands dangle.

That’s not what adults do. But maybe he wasn’t taught to be an adult.

He’s never had to make his own coffee, do his own laundry (or pick up his own dry cleaning), learned how to write his own books (or read his own books) or perform other tasks that define a disciplined grown-up life.

All too often, Trump doesn't listen but instead is unfocused and inattentive, with his mouth slack, his hands dangling between his legs, and his shoulders slouched forward in a classic pose of a spoiled and petulant schoolboy.

Previously immune from the consequences of his own bad instincts, inoculated against facing the results of his poor judgment by layers of social isolation, Trump quite simply didn’t know what it was like to behave like an adult and have people not like him—except, perhaps, for that time he attended the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. Part of being an adult is learning how to behave with others.

Trump expected obedience from the American people. Maybe what he needs is some training—and not with the promise of a treat, either.